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April 4, 2011

Injury Prevention Monday

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, unintentional injuries, including motor vehicle traffic crashes, falls, poisonings, suffocations, drownings, and fires/burns, are the No. 1 cause of death for people ages 1 to 44 and the fifth-leading cause of death for all ages. Beyond the emotional damage that comes with such tragedies, the American Public Health Association (APHA) reports that unintentional injuries cost the country over $69 billion per year (12 percent of total health care spending). National Public Health Week (April 4-10)--Safety is No Accident: Live Injury-Free--is devoted to helping Americans prevent injuries at home, work, play, on the move, or in the community.

Start with your home. Make sure your home is equipped throughout with proper lighting, even surfaces, functional smoke and carbon monoxide detectors and covered electrical outlets. Devise emergency plans, such as evacuation maps and emergency phone number lists, and make sure all family members are aware of them. If you have children, be sure to store medicines and cleaning supplies out of reach and whenever cooking, keep hot surfaces attended at all times. Also check your hot water heater regularly to make sure it is below 120 degrees Fahrenheit.

When at work, be sure that you and your fellow employees understand and follow workplace safety regulations at all times. This can include wearing protective equipment and reflective gear, maintaining a functional sprinkler system, practicing regular fire drills, and exercising caution when operating heavy machinery. Devise a system for recognizing, reporting, and fixing unsafe and hazardous working conditions.

To ensure you and your kids are safe at play, first get a physical exam before starting a new sport or season. Warm up and stretch before starting your activity and use proper body form when completing it. Stay properly hydrated with plenty of water. Always wear a helmet and properly fitted protective gear; according to the APHA, helmets can prevent two-thirds of child deaths from bicycle-related accidents. Also be sure to keep an eye on children, and enforce rules if necessary to ensure they are playing safely.

Whenever traveling in a motor vehicle for any distance, wear a seat belt at all times; or for children, safely use car seats or booster seats. The CDC reports that seat belts prevent about 50 percent of crash-related deaths and injuries and the APHA states that car seats reduce the risk of infant death by 71% and toddler death by 54 percent. Always be a responsible driver: don't drink and drive, text, eat, talk on the phone, or drive when tired. As a pedestrian, use sidewalks or, if they are not available, walk facing oncoming traffic. Wear reflective gear at night and do not jaywalk.

Other ways to help expand injury prevention initiatives in your community may include supporting school violence and bullying prevention programs, reporting suspected child abuse or neglect cases to local authorities, or endorsing efforts to improve the safety of parks and playgrounds.

To learn more about these tips and National Public Health Week, go to http://www.nphw.org/nphw11. To read more on the CDC's Leading Causes of Death Reports, visit http://webappa.cdc.gov/sasweb/ncipc/leadcaus10.html

Every Monday, the Johns Hopkins Healthy Monday Project, part of the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future, offers tips for preventing disease and injury, and maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Check back each week for new tips or visit our archive.